Biomaterials, Biomechanics, and Cell & Tissue Engineering
Biomaterials can be classified as synthetic or natural materials intended to either augment, analyze, detect, direct, replace, repair or regenerate organs, tissues, or cells. The field of biomaterials employs the combination of concepts and experimental techniques used in materials science and engineering, as well as the biological sciences, to address the structure-property-performance relationships of biomaterials and the devices that employ them. Biomechanics aims to develop insight and experience in diverse topics ranging from nanomechanics of biomolecules and cellular mechanobiology to tissue and organ biomechanics and quantitative physiology. These principles can be used to guide the design and modeling of biomedical devices and to understand the role of mechanics in biological systems disease states. The ability to design biocompatible materials and to understand cellular and physiological mechanics makes possible the creation of engineered scaffolds for cells that are designed to function as replacements for damaged tissues. These tissue engineered constructs are designed to promote desirable cell behavior, leading to enhanced effectiveness inside of the body and, potentially, remodeling of the implant into healthy tissue without the biocompatibility or rejection issues experienced with current alternatives. Stem cells have tremendous potential as a cell source for engineered tissues and as cell therapies, and control over stem cell differentiation is a frontier in this area.
Biomedical Devices (BioMEMS) focus on the development of new biomedical technology for life science research and advanced health care. This concentration provides training in fundamental aspects of cell biology and physiology in addition to traditional areas of mechanical and electrical engineering as applied to biotechnology and medical devices. Students will have the opportunity to take advanced courses that include medical instrumentation, drug delivery systems, biosensors, bioMEMS (Biomedical Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems), microfluidic devices, biophotonics, biologically inspired devices & systems, biomedical monitoring with wireless communications, biomolecular/cellular analysis lab-on-a-chip, and bionanotechnology.
Biomedical Imaging focuses on developing technology and applications for life science research and advanced medical imaging systems. This thrust area includes the fundamentals of biomedical imaging instrumentation and systems analysis. Specifically, we learn to analyze imaging systems with quantitative assessments of resolution, contrast, signal to noise ratio, based on convolution, Fourier Transforms, and noise analysis of these systems. Specific technologies include optical microscopy for cellular imaging, quantum dot imaging, as well as SPECT, PET, Scintigraphy, X-ray, ultrasound, CT, and MRI for both medical and life science research applications. Emerging biomedical trends, including targeted therapy (the gamma knife or IMRT), smart contrast agents and targeted molecular and cellular imaging are also introduced. This thrust area is designed to prepare students for the thriving biomedical imaging industry, medical school, or graduate studies in diverse areas of biomedical research.
The Computational Bioengineering concentration focuses on the application of computational techniques to problems in molecular biology, genomics, biophysics and synthetic biology. The course of study covers preparation in component disciplines of computational science, programming, biology, mathematics, physical science and statistics, as well as applications to foundational areas including molecular biophysics, molecular evolution, molecular and cellular design, functional genomics, statistical genetics, and systems biology.
New technology has always played an important role in fueling advances in both the biomedical sciences and the practice of clinical medicine. Increasingly, clinical practice demands the ability to understand and assimilate tools developed by engineers, such as sophisticated implantable devices, high-resolution imaging methods, and bioanalytical diagnostic systems. Undergraduate study in bioengineering offers outstanding preparation for a career in modern medicine.
The Bioengineering Premed concentration enables students to take all courses commonly required for admission to medical school while completing a B.S. in Bioengineering. This includes one year of biology (with laboratory), one year of general/inorganic chemistry (with laboratory), one year of general physics (with laboratory), one year of organic chemistry (with laboratory), and six semesters (19 credits) of humanities and social sciences. In addition, students have the opportunity to take advanced technical topics in areas of biology, chemistry, and bioengineering that provide preparation for careers in medicine, including physiology, immunology, biochemistry, biomedical devices, and much more.
Synthetic biology aims to design and build novel biological functions and systems by applying engineering design principles to biology. From advanced therapeutics to biofuels to new materials, the applications of synthetic biology are diverse. However, the unifying question that connects these disparate problems is: how do you program the behavior of a cell? Despite 30 years of work in this area, the largest constructs that genetic engineers have designed have with few exceptions been smaller than 20,000 bases of DNA in length. When you consider that a bacterium typically has 4 million bases of DNA in its genome, and multicellular organisms typically have billions of bases, it is clear that we have barely scratched the surface of the theoretical potential of engineered biological systems. Synthetic biology broadly seeks to develop new technologies and engineering principles that will allow us to construct better-performing genetic systems quickly, cheaply, reliably, and safely. A student in synthetic biology must possess a broad set of skills include qualitative and quantitative knowledge of biochemistry and molecular biology, laboratory skills in biotechnology, and engineering concepts that span the range from chemical engineering to computer science. Graduates with a concentration in synthetic biology are prepared to work broadly in the field of biotechnology, and specifically in research, pharma, and energy applications.